Saturday, 3 September 2016

Stargate (SNES/Mega Drive)

Stargate SNES title screen
Developer:Probe/Tantalus|Release Date:1995|Systems:SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis

This week on Super Adventures I'm still celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary by playing games that have some vague connection to the series. This one's got 'Star' in the title, it's set on another planet, and it's based on a long running movie/TV franchise, so it's ticking lots of boxes. In fact the 'Stargate' TV spin-offs were often the closest you can get to proper 'Star Trek' without getting sued by both CBS and Paramount.

But Stargate the game is an adaptation of the original 1994 movie that kicked the franchise off, released a year after the film for Super Nintendo and Genesis/Mega Drive consoles. That's the SNES title screen you're looking at up there, with its narrow resolution and extra colours, but I'll be getting around to the the Sega version as well eventually.

'Stargate' isn't a particularly great film, but it cheats by having an iconic theme by Bond composer David Arnold powerful enough to make scenes of extras walking across a desert outside of Yuma, Arizona feel like the most epic sci-fi adventure since 'Return of the Jedi'... which used the place for Tatooine now that I think about it. Anyway, if there's one thing that absolutely works about that movie it's the music, so of course the game drops it entirely, replacing it with a title theme that sounds like it's been borrowed from an Amiga game. It's not all that bad though really, here have a YouTube link if you're curious.

There'll be movie SPOILERS below this point, so stop reading here unless you've seen it or don't care.


Yep, this is definitely one of those games that assumes you've seen the movie. The developers felt no need to explain what a Stargate is or why a Marine battalion was sent to a planet on the other side of the universe. Though hang on, I thought they sent just a dozen or so Air Force airmen through the gate in the film. A battalion is like... way more than that.

Still, they got the Stargate itself looking right. Well except for being wider than it is tall; that's going to make it a bit hard for the inside bit to spin. It's even worse when you remember that this is a SNES game, so the video output gets stretched to fill a 4:3 screen.

That's one wide-ass Stargate.

Huh, that doesn't happen in the movie! They're just making shit up now.

Well okay there technically is a sandstorm and it does technically separate O'Neil from some of the other soldiers, but he isn't alone and they're the ones in hostile territory.

Or he might not. It's not a sure thing.

Well this crisis escalated quickly.

Okay so my job is to find Daniel Jackson, find O'Neil's team, find a nuclear bomb and then get back to the Stargate. Sounds simple enough.

And the game turns out to be a platformer! Big shock.

But, uh... O'Neil has light brown hair and a black t-shirt! Had the artist even seen the movie? Actually now that I think about it he's likely wearing his black beret here, so I'll shut up now.

I'm not the one turning him around by the way, he's just nervous. Also, like all platformer heroes, O'Neil is ambidextrous and likes to swap hands on his gun when he changes direction. You think that's impressive, look closer and you'll see his holster switches leg as well.

Alright, I'm going to explore this vast empty desert that awaits me to the right.

Hey, that's cool, I can jump on the camels to hurt nearby enemies. The animation in this game is incredible by the way.

Wait, this is Aladdin on the Mega Drive! I don't know how I could've possibly got these screenshots mixed up. I mean Aladdin's barren sand dunes and stone ruins are way more colourful.

Super Star Wars on the other hand...

Nah, this is still pretty different to Stargate. Sure both games are about running to the right and shooting things with multi-directional fire, but Super Star Wars throws a lot of enemies at you and the things tend to die in a few shots.

In Stargate on the other hand enemies are less frequent and take forever to kill, which is weird seeing as I seem to be firing explosive-tipped rounds. These giant scarab beetles weren’t even in the movie!

I got the thing in the end but it took a lot of jumping around and firing wildly and I lost some health in the process. Short enemies that are awkward to hit is definitely a Super Star Wars thing, and so's having a health bar, but I won't be whining about that.

Wow, they sure made that land mine subtle. You can tell it's alien tech as it exploded with a green flame and didn't send my arms and legs flying in different directions like human land mines tend to do.

Check out that beautiful run cycle by the way. He's got tiny explosions going off beneath his feet even when he's not stepping on mines. I was expecting the game to look like ass, but the art's actually pretty great.

Right, I'm going to check out what's inside that cave.

Laser beetles and stuff in the foreground blocking my view, my two favourite things! I’m getting the impression I’m meant to be using grenades against these things, because shooting them with bullets isn't bringing joy into my life.

Yeah, that got the job done, though I'm not sure why I utterly failed at jumping over his lasers just then. It's not like there's a delay on the jump, the controls are actually pretty responsive.

I also shot a lizard creature along the way, so it's not just these guys I'm fighting. These are just the most annoying. In most run and gun style games the enemies are as tall as you are, so when you pull the trigger the bullets hit them, but in this they're all short bastards that simply scuttle under my shots.

I came all this way for one ankh takeaway? Oh it’s a health kit!

I came all this way for one health kit? I lost more health getting here than I gained from picking it up! I guess I’ll be heading back out into the desert then, because there's nowhere else to go in this cave. Fortunately enemies don't respawn so the return trip will be quick and uneventful.


SOON.


I found Dr. Jackson!

This desert music sounds nothing like anything in the movie by the way, but it's got a beat you can dance to. Apparently.

Is there no text in this game that isn’t amazing? Shame I don't get to pick what I'm saying.

Also it's nice of the game to give me a digitised picture to confirm that yes I am actually playing as Kurt Russell. That's rarer than you'd think, considering there's no 'Escape from New York' game, no 'Tango & Cash', no 'Soldier', no 'Tombstone', not even a 'Captain Ron' game. There is a 'Big Trouble in Little China' game for 8-bit computers, but honestly I think I'd rather just play Metal Gear Solid again and pretend he's Snake Plissken.

Hang on, is that the film crew I see reflected in Daniel's glasses? Because it should be.

Stargate's not the most memorable movie, but one thing I remember about it is how no one in the crew realised it was a bad idea to give the actors mirrored shades and have them face the camera.

I think it's cool though, it's nice to get a glimpse behind the scenes.

So that's my new objective: find 5 boxes of supplies inside the caves. Well they're not in cave #1, that's where they keep the bag of ankh, so I'll carry on across the desert going right until I find a second entrance.

I found a second entrance! Well there's the first box, but there's a guy in the way.

Why does no one look at me when they’re talking? And how does he know what Daniel spoke of?

Hey it's, uh, that guy! You know, the town elder played by Erick Avari... who shouldn't be able to speak a word of English because he's from a planet on the other side of the universe. Half the movie was about the heroes struggling to communicate with these guys! But I can't exactly complain about that here when 'Stargate SG-1' had almost everyone in the galaxy speaking perfect English (with a Canadian accent).

I guess Nagada is the desert city with the big doors then, though I don't remember it getting a name in the movie. I don't remember the planet getting a name in the movie either, but everyone seems to know it's called Abydos.

Well I can't reach that ledge by jumping off the rope and he smacks his head if I try to jump from the post, so I guess I'm not going any further that way. Sure the elder specifically said the boxes were in these caves, but that doesn't mean there isn't another entrance further along the desert.

It wasn't a waste of time coming in here though, as now I've learned for sure that there's no falling damage. The only thing in this world capable of hurting Jack O'Neil is alien laser beetles and land mines.

Oh, plus these bloody flying enemies!

These things keep popping out as I’m running and start chasing me around. I mean they don't keep popping out, this isn't Super Star Wars, but one at a time is enough. I can ignore most the enemies out here, but these ones just won’t let it go! It seems every creature out here is a predator and they exclusively hunt special forces operatives.

Could be worse I suppose, they could be picking me up and carrying me back to the start of the level like in Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition.

The game does actually remind me a lot of those 'palaeontologist with an assault rifle' Jurassic Park sequels like Rampage Edition and Chaos Continues. Those were made by different folks though... but Stargate developer Probe did create Alien 3, which adapted the movie about people about people trying to beat an alien without guns by adding a thousand more aliens and having Ripley run around with a gun.

I have to admit, I think Stargate might actually be the least irritating out of all these games. Not saying it's fun, it's just not making me want to crush my controller.

So it that flashing box wasn't full health then? Well it was worth a shot.

At least the dialogue still hasn't let me down. Turns out O'Neil's got a wizard watching over him with the power to resurrect the dead! But only five times, after that he's fucked. Nothing like this happened in the movie at all by the way; they couldn't bring people back from the dead, magically or otherwise! Well okay they could, that was actually a major plot point in the film, but not like this.

I reappeared back at the entrance so I'm going to give this place another shot. I want to see what’s at the bottom of these caves; hopefully a big stack of boxes.

Hah, there were two health kits just to the right of where I got O'Neil killed earlier! Seems I chose poorly when I ran to the left. Wait, is this the end of the cave? Shit, they did it to me again!

At least I got a screenshot of those lizard things this time. They spit fire or acid at me when I get close and I don't appreciate that. They also eat crates of supplies apparently as I can't see any down here either. Alright, onto the next cave.


BUT THEN...


Wow, that’s it? Only three caves and then I'm at Nagada?

Let me in you bastards, I’m bored of looking for crates for you! The gates are supposed to be here to keep the sandstorms out, do I look like a sandstorm?


SOON.


Well I checked all the caves again and I'm still only at 1 of 5 boxes. I'm also dangerously low on chocolate and radioactive waste it seems. I love this computer O'Neil's carrying around with him by the way, with its rugged metal case and exposed wires. It's exactly what you'd want to haul around with you through the hot desert.

It says I've got plenty of tries left but I’m bored of this now. Let’s see if the Mega Drive version’s any different.

Hey it's got a different title screen. This one scrolls down instead of fading in, for whatever reason.

The actual gameplay and visuals seems more or less identical though, besides the lack of explosions on bullet impacts. I actually killed that scarab fucker with gunfire though! I didn't think I could crouch low enough to hit him, but it turns out that I can. Plus my bullets stun him a little, holding him back while his lasers fly right past my shoulder! Still takes forever to kill the things though.

One big change I've noticed is that on the Mega Drive version the gun on the HUD has more colours and they took the pistol grip off it!

That bar going down the middle is the heat gauge by the way. I have infinite ammo but that bar fills up red when I'm firing too long and that means... something presumably. I haven't noticed any effects yet though.

Oh he can reach the ledge by the rope by just jumping up? Well... okay I'm an idiot for not trying that earlier. He's a very nimble guy O'Neil, with one hell of a high jump. He's strong too, to be able to hang by one hand like that.

Bottomless pit or next part of the level? I guess I'm taking a leap of fate.

The game's actually pretty good with the camera, letting me drag it around to scope out the area when I'm crouching... for all the good it's doing me here. I'm pretty sure I'll be fine though as I haven't come across a single instant death pit so far. Still, I'll try to grab the ledge on the way down just to be safe.

Shit, now there's bigger flies that shoot lasers? Hang on, that's just one of the scarabs with wings! Oh joy.

The things sure go up with a blast when they die (or touch anything). I'm starting to wonder if they really have eaten all my C-4.

I love this pointless animation by the way. Pointless animations are the best animations. I've got plenty of complaints about this game, but I can't say a bad word about the way pixel Jack O'Neil gets around. Well... maybe it's a bit weird how the ground moves faster than his feet do.

The rest of the cave carried on in a similar fashion, with more beetles both flying and otherwise, but I eventually came across more than enough supply boxes to fill my quota and got my ass back outside to Nagada.

Ra's not supernatural, he's a bloody alien! Stop calling him supernatural. Also they're not 'a race' they're regular normal human beings.

And my next mission is... find four elders. I'm starting to see a pattern emerging here.

The dialogue screen looks a little different on the Mega Drive, just enough to make me wonder why they bothered to change it. The portraits aren't cropped quite as tightly and there's a larger, more stylish Flash logo across the middle.

But hang on, where's my password? I completed a level, I should get a password!


LATER, DEEP WITHIN NAGADA.


Hey it's a Horus guard, one of the actual enemies that I should be fighting in this game!

I don't much like these guys though. They keep teleporting around, shooting beams at different angles, and refusing to die. They couldn't teleport in the movie! Well okay they could, that was actually a major plot point in the film, but not like this.

The camera was originally scrolling all over the place to stay focused on O'Neil by the way, but I stabilised the animation and fixed the cut-off sprites to keep the filesize down. It's never actually this calm in game.

Man I could use a fly repellent power up right about now.

I'm just starting to come to terms with the fact that this is what the game is. These flying things are going to be bothering me on every level I go to, and I'll never enjoy fighting them. It's a shame really as the controls are actually pretty decent. If I hold attack while I'm moving I can aim while walking around, but if I'm standing still when I press it he'll remain locked to the spot. It means I can fire diagonally without throwing myself off the ledge.

This is another animation I stabilised, though I left the first bit alone to demonstrate how I fall faster than the camera, making landing on that ledge a happy accident. And then when I dropped down again I landed next to a 1up! So they do exist in this.

Also this exists too:

A portable waterfall! I've been wanting one of these.

Oh it's just a cooling system for my gun to stop it from overheating. I had an ammo upgrade as well but that wore off, and I'm sure this will too. It'd be nice if I was collecting permanent upgrades, to make these bullet sponge enemies at little less work to kill, but then I might actually start enjoying the game and that'd be weird. I suppose I should just be grateful that I don't have to pick up ammo.


LATER, AT THE END OF THE LEVEL.


I suppose I should try throwing around more of these grenades I've been stockpiling. Killing enemies isn't fun, but it is on occasion satisfying. He didn't really respawn by the way, that's just the magic of looping GIFs.

You can tell what kind of mood I'm in right now, as I threw a grenade at the last elder I need to complete this stage without even hesitating. I'm really lucky they're fireproof. Wow, if he's the last that means I'm actually done here. I can finally see what's past the city level!

Uh, did I end up in a time loop or something? The next level is more desert, more caves, and more of these bastard beetles. The game didn't even give me a password.

I did run into my buddy Kowalski though, so that's cool. I guess. But now I have to get back to finding things.


LATER.


No, crouch and THEN fire! Don't shoot at your feet you idiot!

Well that was an embarrassing way to throw away Jack's last life. Totally could've seen it coming though.

Whoops. I was hoping it'd give me a password if I let the countdown run out. Not that I really wanted to keep playing, I just think it's a shame I can't see how many continues it gives me now.


CONCLUSION

I came into Stargate expecting to find a rushed, piece of crap movie tie-in, but this is actually a fairly decent video game. Well it's well presented at least, with quality pixel art and fluid animation, let down a little by the scruffy digitised portraits on the chat screen. The soundtrack works as well, despite sounding nothing like the movie. Or maybe because of it, as hearing the movie theme on a loop could eventually drive a person crazy. Try watching a 'Stargate SG-1' DVD box set and find out for yourself!

It helps that the game is only loosely connected to the film, which is mostly about Ultron trying to communicate with the locals, finding love and becoming an action hero. This on the other hand is about fighting through caves full of bugs to find boxes/people to give boxes to. You spend your time shooting at annoying little things you can't hit without crouching, flying things you can't hit without waving your gun around like a maniac, and Horus guards which don't care if you hit them or not. Either way they take forever to die, unless you get some distance and nail them with a grenade. The controls are actually pretty good, aside from awkwardness while crouching and shooting, but against these enemies combat still gets frustrating. And it's all been about the combat so far, without any platforming challenge or reason to be excited about going into a new cave.

In platformers like Metroid, Symphony of the Night and Terraria I was exploring for me, to improve my character (and to fill in my map). This just wants you to collect 5 things before it'll let you move on, and the upgrades are temporary, so the enemies never become any less of a pain.

So I can't give it a 'Not Crap' award because I couldn't wait to turn the game off. Apparently there's terrible Super Star Wars inspired 3D flight levels and boss fights to look forward to if I stick with it, but I think I've seen enough. Even pixel Kurt Russell can't save this.


Super Adventures' Star Trek 50th Anniversary Celebration continues tomorrow with another game with the vaguest connection to Star Trek!

But while you're waiting for that why not leave a comment? See now you have to leave a comment to explain why you don't want to leave one.

3 comments:

  1. There is a game based on "Soldier":

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/p_soldier

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoa, I had not heard of that. It was cancelled though so we still didn't get a Soldier game in the end.

      Delete
    2. But here's a link, although I did not have used:

      http://www.theisozone.com/downloads/pc/windows-games/soldier/

      Delete

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